The Great Crochet Adventure

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The last time I tried to crochet, it did not go well. My mother tried to teach me how to make a granny square, but we quickly realized a right hander teaching a left hander is beyond tricky. On top of that, I had no real basis of understanding how crochet works, so a granny square was probably way beyond my skill level.

I was going to let crochet go until I decided to launch a major project at work. In response to students wanting to learn how to knit (several come to see me for help) and craft in general, I am organizing an after school program that teaches students crafting skills. In addition, our little collective is going to have a community service component. Some of what we make will go to charitable organizations. We’re going to make and donate everything from chemo caps to kennel blankets!

In the midst of organizing everything, I found out a lot of kids want to learn how to crochet. Yikes! It’s kind of hard to teach them how to crochet when I don’t have a clue. So, last week I set upon teaching myself some basic skills – things like how to hold the hook, the yarn, and some basic stitches.

Due to a weekend of no internet, I ended up teaching myself using an ancient Reader’s Digest book, The Complete Guide to Needlework. The pictures weren’t the best, but it was enough to get me started. Seeing as the last time my left-handedness was a major obstacle, I decided to try learning right-handed. After several hours of epic failure – my right hand was fighting me the whole way – I finally managed to make a little 4×4″ swatch using a single crochet stitch.

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Hooray!! The little victories are the best, aren’t they?

Emboldened by my tiny success, I decided to make a set of coasters as a means to practice the single crochet stitch and to find my groove in holding the hook and the work yarn. Like knitting, there is a method and rhythm to manipulating both the hook and yarn.

Just like the first go around, there was plenty of failure, (and hand cramping – my right hand does not like all this work!), but the repetitive nature of the project paid off. I ended up with a cute set of coasters and the “groove” is falling into place. My fingers are naturally finding their grip on the hook and I’m finally able to regulate tension on the yarn without overthinking it.

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Not bad for a few hours of self-instruction. Sometimes you just have to jump in and do it! Even if failure is a given. I’m not a genius at crochet, but I’ve at least got enough to be able to teach students the basics. As I learn, so will they. If anything we can laugh at our mistakes and cheer our victories together.

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c.b.w. 2016

Knitting With Scrap Yarn

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After just a few years of knitting, my scrap yarn basket has started to overflow. I suppose its inevitable for every knitter. Projects rarely use every last bit of yarn, so we are left with partial skeins of all different sizes and colors.

Some would say just throw it out, but like most knitters I can’t bring myself to do that. I love yarn and put a lot of effort into picking just the right fiber and color. I can’t just pitch it like it means nothing! Instead, I take the overflow of scrap yarn as a challenge. There’s got to be a creative and productive way to use the leftovers hanging out in my yarn basket.

Inspiration came calling when I heard my very old dog snoring in his bed. He is 14 years old and struggles to get comfortable. His favorite blankets are knit and crochet blankets I purchased at craft fairs or made myself. However, his favorite blankets often end up in the washer due to old dog “issues,” which means he is often without them. There simply aren’t enough crochet or knitted blankets in our collection! Sounds like a job for scrap yarn!

I sorted my scrap yarn according to weight and then sorted them into color groupings. From there, I selected a baby blanket pattern that matched the yarn weight in the first pile. I settled on Size 8 circular knitting needles because most yarns in the pile recommend a 7, 8, or 9 needle – I figured 8 was in the middle and would likely accommodate the  different types of yarn I had in the pile.

The first blanket I made used six different yarns! I slightly modified a car seat blanket lace pattern, (Car Seat Blankets by Leisure Arts) so it would fit my dog’s orthopedic mat with enough left over to scrunch it up the way he likes it. The result was better than I expected, given the wide variety of yarn that was used to make the blanket.

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The funny part is I know where all the yarn came from – there are leftovers from 2 hats, a pair of socks, and 2 scarves.

I had so much fun making the first blanket, I decided to make another using the yarn I sorted into the second pile. This time around, I went with a pattern called the Maxi Cosi Blanket. It’s also meant for a baby car seat, but I’ll modify to fit one of my dog’s smaller beds (maybe 20″ x 20″). It’s not finished yet, but it is coming together nicely …

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So far, yarn from a pair of socks and a hat are in play. The fisherman’s wool (beige and cream) is a skein that just won’t stop giving … I’ve used the same skein in several projects including a scarf and a hat. This will hopefully be it’s last project!

When this blanket is finished, I’m planning on adding a flannel backing. I’ve never attempted to sew anything onto a knitting project, but I think it’s about time I got brave enough to try!

My scrap yarn basket has a lot more room in it after these projects, but there is still quite the stockpile of sock weight yarn. I’m on the lookout for the perfect project to put this part of my scrap yarn stash to good use.

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c.b.w. 2016

Tsunami Socks

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While in Portland, Oregon last summer I bought some beautiful hand-spun, hand-dyed sock yarn. I spent more than I should have, but when it comes to finding gorgeous sock yarn in a place I love I’ll pay just about anything to take it home!

Two beautiful skeins from The Yarns of Rhichard Devrieze (Peppino in Class Act) sat in my stash (wrapped in tissue paper) waiting for the perfect sock pattern to come along. I found it six months later in a great little book called Knitted Socks East and West by Judy Sumner. This fantastic collection of Japanese inspired stitch patterns included a pair of socks inspired by tsunami waves and islands. The second I saw them I knew my fancy yarn had met its match.

My Tsunami Socks are my new favorite pair! I love the subtle shades of blue and coral – a perfect combination for the idea of “waves” rolling around “islands.”

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Tsunami Socks

Overall, the pattern for these socks was incredibly easy to follow. I’m usually not a fan of chart only patterns, but the charts in this pattern are large enough to read without difficulty and the instructions are very clear. Just be careful reading the instep chart. The red repeat line is hard to see.

I’d recommend this pattern for knitters with a little experience who might  be ready for a challenge. The “wave” in the leg of these socks is completed with a four-stitch cable, which can be daunting for knitters who have never worked with a cable needle. Still, it’s a good first project as the cable only occurs once in 12 rounds. Be brave and give it a whirl!

My current project is a cute easy-knit tank top. Stay tuned!

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c.b.w. 2016

Caretta Caretta Socks

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After a long season of Christmas knitting, it was great to get back into the groove of knitting socks. Even though my sock drawer is already stuffed with 30 pairs of knitted socks (I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not ), I had double pointed needles in one hand and a two hanks of sock yarn in the other before the Christmas tree came down.

I was looking for a little bit of a challenge this time around, so I selected a pattern from Socktopus by Alice Yu. The patterns in this book are incredibly beautiful, but also on the more difficult side. I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners despite the fact that the patterns are meticulous and clearly written. Some of the stitches and techniques require a little courage and experience!

After looking through all the patterns, I settled on Caretta Caretta Socks. I love knitting lace designs and I liked how this particular lace pattern was a bit thicker than most. The only adjustment I made was eliminating the beadwork. As pretty as the beads are in the pattern, I’m not a fan of beads on socks.

For the yarn, I went with an old favorite: Plymouth Yarn Happy Feet in gorgeous shades of purple, blue, and green with flecks of gold. I love how soft this yarn is, but I have noticed the gauge is a bit larger than stated on the tag (I tend to knit right on gauge and no matter what I do, this yarn always goes bigger!). I scaled my needles down a full size to compensate.

My socks turned out great! The variegated colors worked really well with a thicker lace pattern.

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Caretta Caretta Socks in Plymouth Yarn Happy Feet

One of my favorite features of this pattern is the 3×1 ribbed heel flap. It matches the cuff and integrates fully into the lace pattern as if its an extension. It’s a nice touch that gives these socks and elegant flow.

My Caretta Caretta socks are now sitting at the top of my sock drawer and I love them. Meanwhile, I’m already knitting another pair of socks. This time I’m following a pattern inspired by Japanese knitting techniques and stitches. And the yarn is divine – I bough it in Portland and it’s proving to be phenomenal. Stay tuned!

Happy Knitting!

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c.b.w. 2016

Knit Happens at Christmas

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When I learned how to knit three years ago, I had no idea how much of a Christmas tradition it would become. What started as a pair of socks for everyone turned into special orders to specific knitted items and/or specialized projects.

I’m not complaining in the least because I love giving handmade gifts. Sometimes I wonder if my friends and family feel that way – there’s always that little voice that wonders if they’re thinking, “oh no, not again!” However, everyone’s excited responses told me I hit the mark this year!

My Christmas knitting odyssey began in early August. My stepmother very specifically asked for lightweight dishcloths. So, I tracked down some Sport weight cotton and got to work:

Yarn: Premier Yarns Cotton Fair (Violets and Cocoa)
Patterns From: Eight Linen Washcloths

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Next, I knit up some socks for a few friends that haven’t received socks since the first knitty round of Christmas. I made a simple 3×1 ribbed sock with a touch of color work in various worsted weight yarns (my yarn stash came in pretty handy!). Then, I got creative and paired each pair of socks with a book. Now these simple socks are “Reading Socks!”

Yarn: Various stash yarns, worsted weight
Pattern: Ann’s Go-To Socks

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One of my friends is a fellow Twi-Hard, so I made her a replica of a hat worn by Bella in the movie version of Eclipse. This was my first attempt at color work beyond the heel and toe of a sock. While I love how it turned out, this project reinforced my overall preference for textured patterns instead of color work.

Yarn: Lion Brand, Vanna’s Choice, (Green and Natural)
Pattern: Twilight Eclipse Bella Striped Hat

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My love of lace knitting got a nice workout with a scarf I made for my aunt. I found this pattern while playing on Pinterest and it turned out to be a beautiful and relatively easy pattern.

Yarn: Paton’s Classic Worsted Wool, (white)
Pattern: Birch Trees Scarf

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When I made my mom a kitchen towel last year, my sister wanted one, too. So, I decided to make one for her for Christmas. While a bit unconventional, this towel is highly absorbent and very sturdy. A row of buttons allows for the towel to be secured around an oven handle.

Yarn: Sugar n’ Spice Solids and Twists (Wine and Cottage)
Pattern: Triangles Towel

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Last, but not least, I made my mother something very special. Her kitchen window has long been in need of a pretty curtain or valance. I just so happened to come across a stunning lattice lace curtain pattern and thought it would look fantastic on her window. It’s one of the larger pieces I’ve ever made and it turned out beautiful!

Yarn: Knit Picks Shine Sport (Platinum)
Pattern: Dappled Lace Cafe Curtain

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One section of a 48″ panel

Knitting gifts is always fun, but now I’m excited to pick up my knitting needles and make a little something for myself!

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c.b.w. 2015